NICOSIA -- After another record year in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic drove down tourism in Cyprus just as big in 2020, arrivals falling 84 percent with international air traffic limit, visitors from some countries banned and people reluctant to travel.
The health crisis saw the industry that is crucial to the economy take a big bit, arrivals plummeting from 3.97 million in 2019 to only 631,609 in 2020 when non-essential businesses and tourist areas locked down for weeks on end.
Tourism usually contributes around 15 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and in 2019 brought in 2.68 billion euros ($3.25 billion) and put a big dent in hotels and other businesses relying on tourists, said Agence France-Presse (AFP.)
There were also travel restrictions imposed on Cyprus’ main tourist markets — Britain, Russia and Israel, while quarantine measures across Europe also hampered travelers from leaving their countries, the report added.
The pandemic ended four successive record years of tourist arrivals, that helped Cyprus emerge from a financial crisis in 2013 when the economy almost went under after banks gave bad loans to Greek businesses and had big holdings in Greek bonds that were devalued 84 percent.
In December 2019, tourist arrivals were only 9,682, an annual reduction of 91 percent and the onset of the low season of winter, with the world still in the dark and the government a month later bringing a second lockdown.
While the government acted swiftly to contain the pandemic when cases were first recorded in March, Cyprus has since struggled to contain the outbreak. A ban on commercial flights in March was gradually lifted in early June.
The second lockdown doesn’t include the airport and ports, however, with no explanation why visitors wouldn’t bring the virus into the country even as they are tested but could be asymptomatic and spread it sometime later.
The Cyprus Covid-19 case tally is now at 29,130 cases and 175 deaths.in 2019, with businesses and the tourist sector anxious for a rebound with many on the brink of not being able to make it financially.